Wooded home tucked into a nature preserve

The McLeod residence is a stunning 1,500 square foot building, tucked into a thicket of trees at the edge of a local nature preserve in Middlebury, Vermont. Designed by John McLeod Architect, it is a modest single story at the west end facing the road, in keeping with the scale of the neighborhood. It climbs to three stories at the more private east end, as the land drops down toward Otter Creek, and the Green Mountains rise in the distance. The resulting sloped roof exposed back to the road is covered with haybales from a nearby farmer’s field. Grasses, sedges, and wildflowers grow out of the hay mulch, providing a living roof which absorbs rainwater, helps insulate the house, and gives the neighbors’ both the human variety and the critters in the nature preserve something akin to what they were accustomed to looking at before the house came to be.

A Rumford wood-burning fireplace reflects heat to the interior, while the masonry mass retains and releases warmth. The complementary stair tower is grounded in the earth and brings in light from above, making simple daily circulation between floor levels a passage between shadows and sky. The silo opens at the top, creating a chimney effect to help vent the house on warm summer days. The rectangular floor plan stretching from west to east provides the optimal orientation for solar design, daylighting, and passive cooling. Interior materials and finishes are natural and raw: ground concrete slab; plaster walls; exposed wood joists; cork, wool carpet, linoleum, and bare pine flooring. Daylight and colors from the surrounding landscape wash in through windows and skylights.

Photos: Susan Teare Photography

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